Thursday, December 3, 2009

Everything is going to be alright

I'm sensing a lot of trepidation from those who haven't yet secured an internship. So I just wanted to share a few thoughts and learnings from my own personal experiences that will hopefully put you in a position where your mind is a bit more at ease.

The reality is that this is one of the hardest things you will ever do in your career. Getting your first job is a monumental task. So if it's any consolation, know that if you can do this, you can do anything.

Only you can decide to take control of this situation - or let it control you. You can sit back clicking refresh on your email as you stare at the phone, or you can decide right here, right now to make something happen. I can tell you from experience that it's a lot more fun (not to mention more comforting) to be in the driver's seat.

And don't think this is my way of saying that you're on your own, because you're not. Everyone at the college is behind you 100% and will do anything and everything to help get you the best possible placement. However, what I'm talking about is the difference between getting "a" placement and getting "your" placement.

So what did I do when I was in your position? I made a plan. A firm, extremely regimented plan - and I stuck to it. You need to start with the goal (get an internship) and work backwards. It should look something like this:

1. Cast a wide net – spend the next few hours making a list of thirty agencies you’d be happy to work at. Trust me, there’s lots of good shops in this town, finding thirty won’t be a problem.

2. Call them – starting tomorrow morning at 8:30 (not 10:30) call the Creative Director at every single one of them.

    * If you get them on the phone - quickly (and enthusiastically) tell them your name, your craft and that you’re just finishing up at Humber. Ask them for a few minutes to show them your work.

    * If you get their voice mail - quickly (and enthusiastically) tell them your name, your craft and that you’re just finishing up at Humber. Ask them for a few minutes to show them your work. Tell them that since they’re probably quite busy that you will call them back (not the other way around).  Leave a specific date and time (tomorrow at 9:00 am – but make sure you can make the call at that exact time). Close by repeating your name and your number.

    * Ask for feedback, not an internship -  this is so important that I'm giving it it's own bullet point. While it might be tempting to only meet with places where you know there's an opportunity, but you are really limiting yourself by doing so. Go out there and meet with as many people as possible because even if they don't have an opening, they might know an agency who does. And frankly, there is no such thing as a pointless meeting. Making a new contact and getting feedback on your book can only help further your career.

4. Follow up, follow up and then follow up – you need to be very diligent about your follow ups and everything needs to be scheduled. Ad people are notoriously bad at returning phone calls and emails. You need to take control of the situation and be persistent, but not annoying.

5. Send a thank-you – it doesn't need to be a singing telegram, but you need to send something. At the bare minimum it's a well crafted email. But maybe it's a post card. Or a letter. And make it personal to them and the discussion you had. No two follow-ups should be the same.

6. Keep working - even though this all sounds like a lot of work, the fact is that once you get over the first batch of calls you're actually going to have some time on your hands. So the best way to feel like you're making progress, is to actually make additional progress on your book. Go back and tweak old campaigns or add new ones. There's still lots of briefs on the blog for you to choose from.

I know it's a scary time right now, but believe me, if you take control and assume responsibility for your future you will feel a million times better.You won't be sitting there wondering what's going to happen, because you will already know.

And remember - I made a promise to you on the first day which I'm going to stick to. I am willing to work with you until you get your placement, however long that may take. You are not alone. Email, call me and even drop by the agency.

Hopefully I'll see you all tonight.

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